Design for Six Sigma at SAIC Motor

In the first of a new series of monthly blogs covering CQI branch events, chair of the CQI Midlands branch Mark Braham gives a behind-the-scenes look at a recent visit to the SAIC Motor (UK) Technical Centre.

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On 11 May the CQI Midlands branch attended an event hosted by SAIC Motor (UK) Technical Centre (SMTC). The evening was well coordinated and Derek Dodd, project quality engineer at SMTC warmly welcomed us in the MG Motor sales room. We had a brief walk around Lord Austin’s office, the onsite museum and office area. You could see how advanced the engineering was when looking at the technical components, advanced technology and cutting-edge thinking.

We convened in the lecture room for a presentation on SAIC Design for Six Sigma. To set the scene, we were provided with an introduction to the business. SMTC UK was established in 2005 to enable SAIC Group to benefit from the wealth of highly skilled automotive engineering and design talent present in the UK, especially in the Midlands. SMTC UK’s parent company, Shanghai Automobile and Industrial Corporation (SAIC) is China’s largest automobile company, founded in 1958. In 2011, the Fortune 500 company produced over four million vehicles, the largest output of any China-based automaker.

The UK engineering team is capable of, and equipped for, engineering both complete vehicles and major powertrain components. As part of SAIC’s global engineering team, the UK’s scope of work covers the concept and initial engineering phases of new vehicle and PT programmes and the engineering, development, sign-off and certification of products for European markets. In Design, SMTC UK is responsible for MG Motor brand development.

To ensure the high standards and technical ability is maximising benefits, SAIC wanted a consistent and repeatable approach to projects and the design of new products from concept to delivery. After much deliberation it was decided the company would use Design for Six Sigma.

Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) is used in many industries, such as finance, marketing, engineering, process industries, waste management, and electronics. It is based on the use of statistical tools like linear regression and enables empirical research similar to that performed in other fields. While the tools used in Six Sigma require a process to be in place, DFSS has the objective of determining the needs of customers and the business, and driving those needs into the product solution. DFSS is used for product or process design in contrast with process improvement. Measurement is the most important part of most Six Sigma or DFSS tools, but whereas in Six Sigma measurements are made from an existing process, DFSS focuses on gaining a deep insight into customer needs and using these to inform every design decision and trade-off.

The implementation of DFSS started with initial training involving people from all levels of the business. The final process included applying the new tools and techniques to a current project. Almost 80 per cent of all employees at SAIC have attended some form of training.

Examples of past projects were described, demonstrating significant time and cost efficiencies, using the right resources. SAIC (UK) Technical Centre chose Capella Associates as their learning partner during this transition. The technical and practical experience from Capella added value to the early stages. Even now they are in the background offering support and advice as required although the skills and experience of SAIC Black Belts is reaching a stage where they are providing a lot of internal support.

It was a great evening and I would like to thank all involved.

Mark Braham is chair of the CQI Midlands branch and head of business assurance at The AA

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